Five-star forward E.J. Montgomery didn’t shock the nation by picking Kentucky on Monday, but the timing was a nice surprise for the Big Blue Nation.
The 6-foot-10, 215-pound Georgia native will bring a unique skill set to Lexington. His former AAU coach (Jarvis Hayes) for the Atlanta Celtics (adidas) spoke with Kentucky Sports Radio about Montgomery’s commitment to UK and what he expects to see Montgomery do in Lexington.
And if you’ve had your fill of E.J. Montgomery for one day (you’re crazy if you had) then stay for the Ashton Hagans’ quote at the end. Hagans didn’t play for Hayes or the Atlanta Celtics but he did play on the adidas Circuit against Hayes and the Celtics.
Kentucky Sports Radio: What was your initial reaction seeing him pick Kentucky?
Jarvis Hayes: His talent level will fit. I was a little surprised that he picked Kentucky since he was the guy that I felt like that he has the talent level to play there but will he be patient enough to fight with the other guys that will constantly come in?
I think it’s a great situation for Coach Cal. You’re getting an extremely gifted that can play inside and out. He can hit long-range jumpers and has really good handles for his size. He’s extremely, extremely, I can’t say it enough T.J., he’s an extremely versatile kid. He’s extremely versatile. He will be a typical Kentucky forward. He has immense potential and being a freshman hopefully you don’t want to put too much on his shoulders but the talent that will be around him will allow him to not have to shoulder so much of the load. But he’s so young but so is everyone on a typical Coach Cal team.
Kentucky Sports Radio: It seems like he does a little bit of everything withouth specializing in one area. How else would you detail his game?
Jarvis Hayes: You’re right. I wouldn’t say he’s great at one thing but in today’s game at the professional level and at college versatility is supreme. If you’re versatile at a lot of different things, especially with basketball continuing to trend towards postionless basketball, the more you can do the more it’s going to fit. When I was playing it was almost jack of all trades and master of none. Those that has specialized skill sets would play over those that did everything. The mindset is slowly changing and guys would rather have jack of all trades instead of the master of none. You may not turn down a great shooter but if you’re really good at one thing it seems like now people want guys that can do a lot of different things than just one.
E.J. fits that mold. He has a lot of areas that he could develop and be great but he does everything well right now.
Kentucky Sports Radio: He went up against Zion Williamson and some of the best players in the country in the AAU circuit. How does he do? For being a top 10 player there’s not much buzz about his game.
Jarvis Hayes: He holds his own. When I had him last summer and we played one of the top teams his talent rose to the top. I don’t want to say E.J. was bored with it but he rose to the occasion. When E.J. was playing against the top guys he’d take it to another level. E.J. wanted to play against the top guys.
Adidas and Nike AAU circuit, they’re all competitive. You have great players on the Nike side. You have great players with adidas and Under Armour. Every time we went up against a team featuring a star that was ranked or in the conversation as E.J. he would always rise to the occasion. He makes everyone better around him. I don’t know if he will be in the feature role at Kentucky but the more you put on his shoulders he will adapt and change his game to make everyone better.
As a plug-and-play guy in Cal’s system he does enough of everything well that Coach Cal will be able to play him with ease.
Kentucky Sports Radio: UK may get a few forwards back including P.J. Washington and Jarred Vanderbilt. Will their decisions impact what to expect from E.J. next year?
Jarvis Hayes: A lot of college coaches would have my name sentiment but you don’t give a guy roles until they play in practice. E.J. could come off the bench or he could start and be a star but those battles will be determined in practice. Coach Cal will let them battle it out and the guy will determine which role they have based on how they compete in practice.
Most of Kentucky’s practices aren’t like most practices. If you’re the sixth or seventh man at Kentucky you would be a top three player at most places in the country. If you’re looking at Kentucky teams then you know Coach Cal has eight or nine starters. It’s not the starter role versus the sixth or seventh man that will concern E.J., it’s him being himself whenever he’s on the floor and trying to make an impact.
Kentucky Sports Radio: What is E.J. like off the floor?
Jarvis Hayes: Great. Great. Great. Great in all capital letters and exclamation points at the end. He listens, he takes criticism and constructive criticism. He’s a very coachable kid and has two great parents that steered him in the right direction. UK won’t have any problems with him. He’s going to bust his tail everyday in practice, he’s going to bust his tails trying to be a leader and he naturally is.
Some guys are leaders by talking and some guys are leaders by example. E.J. is a little quiet so he’s not overly talkative but he will go out there and bust his tail for his guys. The more talent that is around him the more that leadership blossoms and grows. The more he gets comfortable with his surroundings and his teammates the better he will be.
Kentucky Sports Radio: Do you have any thoughts on Ashton Hagans? He’s from that area and played on the adidas Circuit although you didn’t coach him. He’s a major Kentucky target (now a commit) and could (will) play with E.J. in Lexington.
Jarvis Hayes: I’m a huge fan of Ashton. I know him quite well. I know his father quite well. We just played him out in Arkansas and I can’t say enough about Ashton. He’s way ahead of his time as far as how he thinks. He’s very cerebral. I’m trying to find the right adjective to describe him as a player.
If I was a coach at any school in the country I would be beating the door down to get that guy committed to my program. I’m extremely, extremely, extremely high on Ashton Hagans. I love the kid. I go back to the parents. We were talking about E.J. It all stems with what is behind them. If you want to know anything about a kid look at their support system. E.J. has support from his entire family and it’s the same thing for Ashton. It’s a great, great, great support system.